Klein's touch of magic

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The Independent Online
Emilee Klein, who says she never thinks about missing a putt, could afford to yesterday as she had the Weetabix British Open for breakfast. Having already softened up the opposition, she sprinkled a touch of stardust on the Duke's course to win Europe's blue riband by seven strokes.

Klein, 22, from Santa Monica, California, led by six strokes going into the final round and won by seven from two fellow Americans, Penny Hammel and Amy Alcott. Klein only turned professional in 1994 after a successful amateur career - she used to rub shoulders and pick up pointers on the short game from Tiger Woods - but came to Woburn as the form player.

Last week, she gained her maiden victory on the US Tour, defeating Karrie Webb in the Ping Welch's championship in Massachusetts, winning $75,000 (pounds 48,000). Yesterday, she won pounds 80,000, which not only means that she can add to her burgeoning shoe collection, but which will enable her to buy a house in Orlando, Florida. "I was going to buy a house anyway, but now I can afford a bigger one," she said. Her victory was also extremely good news for her caddie, who also happens to be her boyfriend. He is on a percentage of her winnings.

Klein shot 72 in the final round on one of the hottest days of the year and that was more than good enough as those in her wake failed to put together a threatening score. Klein's playing partner, Sweden's Maria Hjorth, narrowed the gap to four strokes after six holes by getting to 10 under, but faded with a 78 to finish 12 strokes adrift.

Klein improved her total to 15 under par with two birdies, one bogey, a three-putt on the third. "I didn't play my best golf," she said, "but when I made a mistake I recovered immediately. I was not terribly nervous, but nervous enough to think I was going to throw up."

Next month, the women's season reaches its climax when Europe meets the US at St Pierre, Chepstow, in the Solheim Cup. Despite her back to back victories, Klein is not assured of a place in the American team on points, but even if she fails to qualify it seems inconceivable that she will not be one of the captain's choices.

Laura Davies, the world No 1, finished with a 70 for an aggregate of 288, four under par, and hopped in her Ferrari to catch a flight back to America, where she will resume duty on the US Tour. This was the seventh successive year the British Open has been held at Woburn and Davies has never won here, although she has won more than 40 other tournaments throughout the world. "At least I can say I tried on every shot," she said.

The real problem is that by her own admission she is psychologically beaten here before hitting a shot. When she stood on the 18th green in the final round yesterday, she neglected her driver and took out the 1 iron for safety. "I was worried about going out of bounds or into the trees," Davies said. She went into the trees on the right, chipped out and settled for a par five on a hole she would expect to birdie or eagle. "Somehow it summed up the whole week," she said.

Next year, the championship moves to Sunningdale in Berkshire, where Davies has a 100 per cent record. She has only played the course once, 17 years ago, when at the age of 15, she won the Surrey junior championship, defeating Sally Prosser with an eagle at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off. "There are plenty of trees at Sunningdale as well," Davies remarked.

In fact, it wasn't Woburn's forest of trees that line the fairways that stymied Davies. It was her putting. Yesterday, she missed three putts of three feet and less, and over the four days she reckoned she had missed no fewer than 30 putts from within 10 feet. "Generally I played well," she said. However, things got so bad on the greens towards the end that she was gripping the putter down the shaft in an effort "to coax a putt in". The move from Woburn is bittersweet for Davies. "This is our biggest championship and I'd always dreamed of walking down the 18th in a winning position. There's nothing wrong with the course. It's me."

While Davies, who was joint 19th, would have loved to have been in Klein's shoes, it was left to Alison Nicholas and Lisa Hackney of England to interrupt the American domination of the leaderboard. They finished joint fourth, eight strokes behind the Californian. "Coming here all of a sudden is like driving down an alleyway," Nicholas said. "I shall be pleased to be going to Sunningdale next year."

Whilst Davies thought the US would be favourites in the Solheim Cup, Nicholas disagreed. "Don't read too much into the Americans doing well here," she said. "Match play is different."

Scores, Digest, page 21